Chinese Prelates Forced to Official Church Meeting

Patriotic Association Aims to Elect New Officers

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ROME, DEC. 7, 2010 ( Several Chinese bishops loyal to Rome have reportedly been forcibly taken to Beijing to participate in the assembly of the Patriotic Association.

According to AsiaNews, dozens of bishops were forced to the capital to participate in the assembly, where a national president of the Patriotic Association and a president of the council of Chinese bishops are to be elected.

The Catholic Patriotic Association is the body through which the Chinese government recognizes religious personnel and registers places of worship. Religious practice is only permitted in China with the oversight of the association.

This explains the difference between the «national» or «official» church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church.

AsiaNews reported that various underground bishops claimed illness to avoid attending the assembly. Others are in Beijing, but refusing to concelebrate Masses with official bishops. Still others were physically forced to attend.

Bishop Feng Xinmao of Hengshui was taken by police officers despite members of the faithful and priests who tried to shield him, AsiaNews reported. One parishioner was injured in the exchange. Once in custody, the bishop was kept in isolation and taken Monday to Beijing for the meeting.

UCANews estimates that some 40 bishops and about 300 priests, religious and laity are attending the meeting.

Growing colder

Forcing underground bishops to attend the Beijing meeting shows China taking another step to distance itself from the Vatican.

In late November, the nation took a turn against normalized relations by ordaining a bishop without pontifical mandate.

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